My lesson was nearly 20 years ago when I learned (by accident really) that my favorite trips are those where I spend time ‘lost in the woods’. At that time, I lived in Florida not far from my brother, and my Mother lived in Pennsylvania. One summer the three of us had agreed to drive and meet half-way in the Blue Ridge Mountains, NC. We rented a small cabin about 10 minutes outside the charming village of Blowing Rock. And there began the eye-opening adventure on Grandfather Mountain and my new appreciation of active tourism and adventure travel.
One of our days was slated for a scenic drive and to see the view from one of the higher peaks on Grandfather Mountain. We were not at all experienced hikers, so our intention was simply to take a nice walk for a few miles and then drive to the top of the highest peak to see the view. So we started off on what was supposed to be about a one hour hike. I know for certain that it was supposed to be a short hike because all we had was two half-drunk warm bottles of water and one smashed protein bar… (You see where this is going, right?). So we set off. After a couple hours we started to wonder if we were lost… and none of us had a trail map (and definitely NO smart phones).
Finally, we passed some other human beings who were heading down the trial that we were hiking up. We asked them if they knew where we were… funny enough they did. “You are on the so-and-so trail, and heading towards the top of the mountain.” OH… oh no... But these humans made it sound like the top was not too far off. So we decided that it was better to carry on than turning around, as we were starting to get hungry and thirsty. “Surely someone will give us a ride back down to our car, we thought.” So we kept on hiking up the never-ending dirt trail. It seemed like a couple more hours had gone by (oh, of course none of us were wearing watches either). We were now getting to the point where the trees did not even have leaves… we MUST be getting close. We found a few more humans who promised us we were but minutes away from the top (by now I know that desperation was written across our faces).
WE MADE IT
We had accidentally hiked to the top of Grandfather Mountain. Yes, it was a pretty view… however we were thirsty and tired. I have NO idea how many miles we hiked, but in guessing from the hours we spent I would say it was about 8-9 miles and mostly up hill (yeah, yeah, not THAT much, buy hey, I was a Florida girl, a total flatlander). As my mother & brother rested and enjoyed the view I immediately started scouting the parking lot for water and for friendly looking people to beg for a ride down. It did not take long, and within minutes found a nice family who could fit the three of us and drive us to our car (luckily were remembered which lot we were in). So they gave us a bottle of water (best tasting water EVER), dropped us off at our car and we thanked them in huge, tired smiles.
My mom had luckily previously scouted out a restaurant that she thought we should try and it was conveniently located between where we were on Grandfather Mountain and our home-away-from- home cabin. YES, let’s go and beg for a table and hope that they don’t mind our sweaty & dirty hiking attire with tired faces. We found the restaurant easily, I practically ran in the front door with excitement and asked for a table for three. Sure, right this way….
WE EARNED OUR DINNER
We sat down and began to melt into their simple wooden chairs, as the sun began to set behind the simple, beautiful Blue Ridge backdrop. We ordered our drinks and began perusing the menu. Home-made mushroom ravioli and cheese…. YES please! And a cold beer, any cheap version will do. I was in heaven! I cannot really remember a more relaxed time in my life previous to that point. Sitting there, enjoying the view, enjoying my tired company, enjoying my ice-cold beer, enjoying my meal as if it were going to be my last ever. This was it! I distinctively remembered that I wanted to bottle-up that ‘tired-yet-super-happy-and-hyper-relaxed’ feeling!!!
THAT RELAXED & HAPPY FEELING
That was it. That was the day I learned that the BEST way to truly relax while on a vacation is to ‘get lost’! Maybe not literally of course… but when you combine a vigorous walk or “hike” as we call in it beautiful scenery, away from crowds, amongst nature AND end the day with a great meal, and a cold beverage, you will likely experience what I had on that day… true RELAXATION (and happiness to boot). I can understand why many people now choose 'Adventure Travel' or ‘Active Tourism’ as their preferred method of traveling & touring! And it helped me become aware of other related types of vacations such as responsible travel and sustainable travel that can enhance experiences even more.
THAT’S HOW WE ROLL Well, I have great news for anyone reading this…. I plan most days on my trips based this simple travel philosophy. Pack your sneakers my friend… we’re taking a walk… BUT we’ll be sure to bring along plenty drinking water and only get ‘lost in the woods’ temporarily. Then we can relax and enjoy a meal we have truly earned while we relax and enjoy each other’s company and the stories that came up from the day.
Cheers to tired legs, sore feet and a happy (and relaxed) heart! ☺